TEA News

26 June 2019

From the President: How TEA is working to fulfill its global mission to grow the association and serve its members

A message to Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) members from International Board President Michael Mercadante of Main Street Design


An exciting time for TEA

This is an exciting time for our association and for the themed entertainment industry as a whole. Over the past five years our organization’s success has accelerated on multiple levels, from the size of our membership to the number of events we produce in all regions and the amount of attendees at those events, from the outreach of the TEA NextGen initiative to the degree of interest our members show in serving TEA.

TEA’s current success is due to a collaborative effort involving the support and dedication of members, sponsors, TEA leadership, volunteers and staff. That success has put TEA in a position where it can focus on planning for the future with confidence. Our International Board of Directors developed a new, three-year Strategic Plan that will focus our efforts on who, what and where we want to be in the years to come. This effort will help all of our members, by targeting global growth, leveraging our educational programs and strengthening the brand of TEA around the world.”

Photo, top right: TEA International Board President Michael Mercadante
takes the podium to greet the delegates of TEA SATE Europe


TEA leaders meet annually for strategic planning. 
These photos are from the January 2019 meeting in Santa Fe, NM.

More about TEA’s three-point, three-year Strategic Plan

Our annual strategic planning meeting (TEA SPM, held in January) is an essential discussion for the TEA global leadership to bring focus and clarity to how to move TEA forward in a way that will best serves the purpose of our nonprofit membership association over the ensuing three to five years. And in the months following the SPM we strive to stay on course and identify actions and best practices to achieve that, with the help of additional meetings, research, discussion and the exchange of information.

Out of the January 2019 TEA SPM came three primary initiatives:

  • Global growth
  • Reviewing TEA educational programs
  • Reviewing TEA internal/external communications and branding.

Each of those initiatives is being advanced by way of a dedicated task force made up mostly of TEA International Board members.


With TEA’s 30th anniversary in the near future, what does it mean to be a TEA leader today?

Being a TEA leader in 2019 is very different than it was in 1991 when the association was founded. In nearly three decades, the association has grown and matured considerably, established influential programs, achieved financial stability and built a strong position within the industry it both serves and seeks to continually improve.

We have done a lot to influence and improve the conversation between the creative/vendor community and the owner/operators. They are now our partners, relying on the TEA talent pool and helping to educate future generations. Reflecting that success and stature, our calendar is brimful of events around the world, and people are eager to be part of the TEA community. We have no shortage of things to do and an enviable pool of hands-on volunteers at all levels ready to contribute ideas.

With so much going on, it’s exciting to be part of TEA, but it’s also easy to get lost in the weeds. Moving forward necessitates understanding where we are moving forward from - where TEA is now. That’s absolutely key to the discussion, and as people come and go within the TEA membership as well as the leadership, it’s very important to make sure they understand the current status of the organization and its many achievements, programs and initiatives.


Big perspective

We also need to continually remind ourselves that it is about big strokes – about strategy, as opposed to day-to-day tasks and details. That is perhaps more challenging than one might expect, partly because we are at this historical point of change, and partly because of the nature of our industry and its makeup. The majority of TEA companies are small companies where the founder or leader is often very involved in day-to-day decisions and actions, since that is what it takes for them to get their projects done. We, as an association, have the luxury right now to look beyond those details and dream big.

To help us keep perspective, we’re very fortunate to have many members of the founding generation still actively involved today. We’re also benefiting from the new voices and new blood that are a result of the TEA NextGen initiative – which was started by the Past Presidents Committee several years ago. TEA NextGen has been a great success for the association and a benefit for the industry at large. TEA NextGen is also part of our ever-better dialog with the academic community.


What does global growth mean?

Global growth for TEA is a multifaceted discussion. It’s about growing membership around the world, but it’s not just about sheer numbers. It’s also about understanding the nature and the needs of the industry in each region in order to best position TEA within our mission and vision, so that TEA and the industry can grow, flourish and achieve excellence together.

TEA’s recent activities in Shanghai are a good example. Our association has a good relationship with IAAPA and we have a presence at the IAAPA Expos in Asia, Europe and North America. In June, at IAAPA Expo Asia in Shanghai, we hosted a booth and a mixer. We signed up new members, met with potential new sponsors, and had many promising discussions about long-term strategy in China and Asia, as well as other parts of the world where themed entertainment is established or emerging. As has been done for the past several years, the Chinese-language version of the latest TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index was introduced at the event. The TEA/AECOM Theme Index is the global attraction attendance report which TEA and AECOM have collaborated to produce, publish and distribute for many years, and is a definitive resource for the industry and support industries.

Following the IAAPA Expo, we presented TEA SATE Asia 2019, also in Shanghai. The conference was graciously hosted by Shendi Group, who went above and beyond the typical arrangements provided to us. The conference itself was very well received, with excellent content curation both from a regional and global perspective. How we market ourselves in that region – and in any region - has to be uniquely suited to the region – it’s not just a matter of translating something into the native language.

TEA is moving forward and looking for the best ways to serve you, our members. I hope this message helps you get a sense of how much we're doing. This is a team effort dependent on many dedicated people, and I'd like to thank them all at this time.



Posted by Judy Rubin



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